The Mets player no one should underestimate

Consistent and reliable, we'll be glad he's on the Mets in 2024.

Feb 14, 2024; Port St. Lucie, FL, USA; The New York Mets gather during workouts at spring training.
Feb 14, 2024; Port St. Lucie, FL, USA; The New York Mets gather during workouts at spring training. / Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

As a team, the New York Mets may be sleeping giants. They’re not getting much attention in terms of being able to compete for a championship. It’s understandable. The name-recognition on this roster isn’t what it was this time a year ago.

The players are embracing the underdog status. They’ve been positive during any of their spring training interviews. Wearing this collar is much different. And within this pack of wild dogs, there’s a player we may all be underestimating.

Adrian Houser is better than a typical fifth starter

Pitcher Adrian Houser is coming into this season as the projected fifth starter for the Mets. A career spent exclusively with the Milwaukee Brewers up to this point, he joins the Mets with a 31-34 record, 4.00 ERA, and time spent as a starter and reliever. A lower than average strikeout rate and higher than average percentage of walks, it’s understandable why some may not think too highly of him.

Houser didn’t have the best of seasons in 2023 nor did he piece together an excellent year in 2022. He wasn’t horrendous either. Houser is about exactly what you’d want from your fifth starter. In 2021, he even showed the spark of what his ceiling could look like.

It was in the 2021 season when Houser made a career-high 26 starts for the Brewers while adding in a pair of relief appearances. He’d deliver them a 10-6 season record-wise plus a 3.22 ERA performance. A career-low in ERA, it was oddly a higher FIP at 4.33 than he had in each of the last two years.

Numbers are funny. It seems to indicate in this successful year that he was incredibly lucky or in the past two seasons he was much less so.

In either case, the Mets have themselves a guy who has relied on pitching to groundball contact with much success. The last two years weren’t quite as good and yet the low of 46.3% remained above the league-average. He has been over 50% for most of his career which if he can recapture will bode well for the 2024 season. If you can't throw it past the hitter, get him to hit it into the ground.

Career-worsts in exit velocity, hard-hit percentage, and fly ball percentage had Houser walking on eggshells last season. Fortunately, by increasing his strikeout rate slightly and decreasing his total number of walks, he managed to escape mostly unscathed. 

Houser isn’t going to suddenly join the Cy Young conversation. Consistently throwing 100+ innings and lengthening the Milwaukee rotation in recent years while also supplementing them with some elite-level relief pitching when called upon should make him much more of a Mets asset than he’s getting credit for. The lowest paid of the Mets due to being the one still in the arbitration-eligibility portion of his career, it’s easy to overlook him.

Houser hasn’t had the implosive season like Luis Severino did last year. He isn’t trending downward and relying on an increase in velocity like Sean Manaea to get his starting pitching career back on track. He is what he is and that’s a very good fifth starter who’ll get the job done.